There's an old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Although Canada is definitely a hockey mad country, especially when it comes to the World Junior Championship tournament, the brain trust at Hockey Canada has changed their approach to selecting their 2014 Under-20 team in hopes of once again finding a golden result.
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The 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, proved to be of incredible value to Team Germany. Despite several preliminary round losses of a clear nature, namely to Canada (9-3), the USA (8-0) and Russia (7-0), the team managed to gain a critical point in a 2-1 OT loss to Slovakia and then managed to defeat Latvia (5-2) in a do-or-die relegation game. With that, Germany had maintained the class and is participating in this year’s WJC in Malmo, Sweden.
This year’s United States squad will look vastly different from the team that won the gold medal at last year's World Junior Championship held in Ufa, Russia, as Team USA returns only three players from last year’s squad. Among the notable eligible returnees absent from this year’s WJC team are Alex Galchenyuk and Jacob Trouba, both of whom are now playing in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets, respectively.
The 2013-14 season has so far been disappointing for the New York Islanders. After making the 2013 playoffs, the Islanders were expected to once again compete for a spot in the post-season. Instead, they currently sit at the bottom of the Metropolitan division. The future remains bright however, as the Islanders have many top prospects currently honing their skills at the junior level.
The Oilers’ minor league prospect pool is an interesting mix of elite-caliber defensemen, a few mid-level picks that are hanging on to the last fringes of their professional career (at least as an Oilers prospect) and a few that could go either direction, depending if they are able to take that next step.
The 2014 World Junior Championship is set to begin Thursday in Malmö, Sweden with the Czech Republic squad looking to surprise some observers. The Czechs performed well last year in Ufa, Russia, beating Latvia, Switzerland and Finland before being eliminated by the United States in the quarterfinals following a 7-0 victory for the Americans. The Czechs ended last year's WJC in fifth place, but may be hard pressed to equal that accomplishment this year.
While the New Jersey Devils are having a roller coaster season, their minor league affiliate, the Albany Devils, are the surprise team of the AHL. Part of the reason is the play from their rookie class, featuring some of the franchises top prospects, including Jon Merrill, Reid Boucher, and Stefan Matteau.
The 2014 U20 World Junior Championship will be a very different experience for Finland on several fronts.
In past tournaments, the strength of Finland's team has been the cohesion gained by playing several years together and then competing as a group in Finland's second league, Mestis, during the Fall.
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